With infections and hospital admissions rising, acute care is almost at capacity, but the new vaccine brings hope
by Cllr Andrew Schrader
Basildon Conservatives Spokesman on Covid-19
Last night, Basildon councillors received an update from the Essex Strategic Co-ordinating Group (SCG), which is part of the Essex Resilience Forum (ERF).
The situation in Basildon, and across Essex, is becoming very serious. With the rising number of Covid-19 infections and hospital admissions, we are now at a point where a number of emergency meetings have taken place across the county over the last couple of days. Due to the pressure created by admissions of patients with Covid-19, Essex’s acute hospital trusts are approximately 48 hours away from reaching the limit of their capacity to take in any new patients. The SCG is, therefore, declaring this a 'major incident' and will be seeking support from the Government to deal with the evolving situation as a result.
The trigger for this decision is the declaration by local NHS Trusts in some parts of Essex that there is a raised 'Operational Pressure Escalation Level'. This means that trusts are having problems with capacity and patient throughput and, if these pressures continue to escalate, there is a potential that hospitals will be unable to deliver comprehensive care.
Residents should be assured that our county is very well prepared for such a step, with protocols in place working well. The key issues are critical care capacity, staffing, and discharges. Critical care capacity in the Mid and South Essex NHS Trust, which includes Basildon, Southend and Broomfield Hospitals, may reach their bed capacity in the next 24 hours. There are similar pressures in the West (Princess Alexandra, Harlow) and the North (Colchester General). Though not quite yet at the level being experienced here, they are not far behind us.
The NHS has confirmed that it is under pressure at the 'front door' (in other words, admissions), which are now higher than at the first peak back in the Spring, but that those presenting at hospital are those who must be admitted. In other words, unfortunately those now going to hospital are indeed those that need to. This means that existing patients are already been transferred to critical care beds elsewhere in the region and this is likely to continue.
We want to praise the hard work and dedication of everyone at the Mid and South Essex NHS Trust, the East of England Ambulance Service, and the wider health, Police and Fire services, who are all working together to find additional support to ease pressures on ambulances.
The NHS is also reporting high levels of staff sickness and self-isolation and staffing wards and discharging patients safely is a key challenge. We know that every sinew is being stretched to find new discharge capacity as well as maximising existing capacity. Everyone across the county is pulling together. The ERF is seeking support from the Government to mitigate and ease pressure on our local health system in the coming days.
It is not all doom and gloom though. We always knew that this would be the time of maximum danger to NHS capacity and the new mutant strain of the virus has increased its transmissibility. It has been announced today that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has now also been approved for use in the fight against Covid-19. This is a really significant moment - and a victory for British science - because the vaccine is the way out of this pandemic. The approval of the this new vaccine brings forward the date at which we will bring this crisis to an end. The Spring will herald better times for us all.
But, for now, your NHS needs you!
It is vital that every one of us takes this virus seriously and abides by the Covid regulations. Stay at home. Work from home unless you absolutely cannot do so. Do not mix households, aside from support bubbles. Resist the temptation to meet more than one person even outside. Nobody likes these kinds of restrictions and nobody wants them to continue for one moment longer than they absolutely have to. The end is in sight. There is light at the end of the tunnel. We just need to keep our chins up and we will come out the other side.